Mapleton, Utah, where I grew up, was a little farming community. My father was not a farmer; he had seasonal work building highways. Our neighbor, Bishop Oscar Whiting, did have a farm, and because my father and mother wanted their children to learn the value of work, they said to him, “If you will put our sons to work on your farm, we will pay you to pay them.”
Our good bishop said, “No, it isn’t necessary for you to pay us; but we’ll put them to work, and we’ll pay them.” So as a boy, from as early as I can remember—I was about seven or eight years old then—I learned to work.
In the summertime we harvested the hay on the Whitings’ farm. Tractors were just coming out then, but the Whitings couldn’t afford one, so they used wagons pulled by horses to do the farm work. My first job, at fifteen cents an hour, was to stomp around on top of a load of hay in the wagon—we called it “tromping hay”—to settle it so that it wouldn’t fall out when we took it from the field to the barn, and so that more could be loaded onto the wagon.
Primary was held during the week in those days, and every Monday at three o’clock in the afternoon, Bishop Whiting would say, “Jay, your work is through for the day; off to Primary.”
In those days, too, the Church did not have a family home evening program like we have today, but my family did have family nights. One of the fondest memories I have is of sitting on Dad’s lap during family night as he read us stories from the Book of Mormon. It was the beginning of my testimony of the Book of Mormon, and my love for my father and mother grew as well.
After we spent this time together, we played games like Hide the Thimble, and Button, Button, Who’s Got the Button. We played basketball too. In the winter we’d take a metal coat hanger, bend it into a circle, and wedge it above a door. We’d wad up some stockings for the ball. Of course, we couldn’t dribble the ball, but we could shoot it at the hanger-basket, and we could pass it to each other. We loved playing together.
The fifth article of faith had a special meaning to me as a boy, not because it was preached to me, but because our family lived its principles. It says, “We believe that a man must be called of God, by prophecy, and by the laying on of hands by those who are in authority, to preach the Gospel and administer in the ordinances thereof.” Mother and Father were loyal to, supported, and loved their leaders. When priesthood leaders asked us to serve, we did, believing that the calls came through them from God.
I remember my missionary farewell. Being the proud young man that I was, when it was Dad’s turn to speak, I thought that he was going to say something about me—what a good missionary I’d be, what a good boy I’d been. But Dad did not say one thing about me. He stood at the pulpit and gave one of the strongest, most powerful testimonies about tithing that I have ever heard. It wasn’t until about halfway through my mission, as I was thinking about his talk, that it dawned on me: Dad had been trying to tell me, “I don’t know how we’re going to support you, Jay, because of my seasonal work, but I have faith that if we pay our tithing, we’ll be able to do it.” And they did. Our priesthood leaders have told us to pay our tithing and to do missionary work, and if we faithfully follow their counsel, we will be blessed.
I encourage each of you children to join your family in family prayer, to join your family in scripture study, to join your family in going to church. I don’t think that anything had a greater impact on me as I was growing up than doing these three things. Just as they strengthened me, they can strengthen you spiritually and help you make important decisions throughout your life.